A man flying a small plane alone crashed in a wooded area of Maryland on Monday, and on Tuesday he walked out of a hospital without major injuries.
Gerry Kempen, 64, crashed his single-engine plane Monday morning in Fort Washington, Maryland. Stranded in a remote place, he worried that rescuers would not find him. But just a day later, he was headed back home to Rhode Island.
The trouble began shortly after Kempen took off from Potomac Airfield.
"I hadn't climbed out very far, and the engine just stopped," he said outside a hospital on Tuesday, with bandages wrapped around his head.
His plane, a fixed-wing single-engine Piper PA-32R-301, crashed into a wooded area near the 11700 block of Gallahan Road. The plane lopped off the tops of small trees and then crashed into a large tree.
Kempen, who has flown for more than a decade, said his training kicked in immediately.
"It's one of those things that you're trained for your whole time. Almost right from the very beginning, they teach you how to deal with engine failures," he said. "So, with all the training, it just kicks in when the situation actually confronts you."
Kempen said he thinks he blacked out. When he came to, his first call was to his wife. She almost went on the trip with him, to visit their children and grandchildren.
"Mostly, I wanted to comfort her. It's always easier for the person that was injured than the person that isn't there. I knew I was going to be OK, I just wanted to make sure she knew it too," he said.
Then, Kempen called 911.
"I heard the helicopter, and I'm not sure that they had seen me. So, I stood there and I kept telling the dispatcher, 'Tell them to look to the right!'" he said with a laugh.
Kempen was flown to a hospital for evaluation. His sternum was fractured and his head was cut, but he's already thinking about his next flight.
"I love it," he said with a smile. "It's just such a feeling of freedom. It's incredible to be up in the sky. Once you've done it, you can't go back."